Emotions at the workplace

Learning how to effectively handle emotions could transform an emotional warzone into a comfortable workplace 

Illustration by Kishore Das

It is a known fact that emotions have a huge impact at the workplace and even more in leadership. A research done by Daniel Goleman indicates that the significance of emotional intelligence vis-a-vis IQ and technical skills is higher at leadership levels. Emotional intelligence in leadership is not just about managing one’s emotions but also effectively managing emotions of others, especially the team members.

Emotion has a direct connection to performance. If our emotion (energy in motion) is high, we feel motivated and if it is low, we feel demotivated. A motivated employee is usually positive, energetic and eager to make things happen. These feelings in turn result in productive behavior such as taking initiative, higher commitment, challenging the status quo and ownership of work. If we extend this thought to describe a manager whose team members are highly motivated, the following characteristics come to mind — the one who gives you space, stands by you, gives you positive and development feedback, guides in difficult situations and, lastly, is accessible.

There is a direct correlation between these attributes and the behaviour of the team member — these attributes enable the employee to showcase his potential and grow, which in turn yields high commitment to generate high performance.

Understanding the needs of your employees is a good place to start.  The good news is that we need to understand only two needs — personal needs and practical needs. These needs are common across boundaries — every individual has a need to be valued, heard, understood and trusted across country, religion, communities and age groups. To be an effective leader, one needs to understand the personal needs of the team members and balance them against the practical need.  At the same time, a leader also needs to bear in mind the practical need in hand of the organisation, that is, to get the work done. Given the pressure at work, leaders tend to focus on the practical need of the organisation and thereby create an imbalance. 

The following key principles help the leader manage personal or human needs of each individual and these should be used during interactions with the team members — maintain esteem/enhance esteem, listen and respond with empathy, ask for help and encourage involvement, share thoughts, share feelings, share rationale and provide support without removing responsibility. Thus, leaders can play an important role in influencing the way people feel. Identifying this correlation and practicing the same differentiates an emotionally intelligent leader with others.

Practicing the above in a good way, day in and out, may not be an easy task, especially when you are dealing with people, and it is more challenging when you have just moved up the ladder to be a first-time leader, which requires some guidance. Tens of thousands of new leaders are promoted into jobs every year that require managing people for the first time. Some might find the transition easy but Development Dimensions International (DDI) research shows that more than half struggle with the same. No one steps into the responsibility knowing everything they need to be successful. Like many other beginnings, the first few years as a young manager can be challenging. 

We have created a step-by-step resource — our new book titled Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others, which explores the mindset, toolkit and practical advice first-time leaders should employ to become better and more productive leaders. It provides guidance, tools and resources to significantly increase chances for success. We have just given you above a small summary from one of the chapters. This gives you practical advice straight from others who have walked in your shoes. 

The book include dozens of tools to ensure your success and is also based on the authors’ and DDI’s extensive experience and research, which ultimately have led to the development of millions of leaders around the world. In fact, a quarter million leaders will be developed this year alone via DDI training. It touches upon different facets of leadership and how leadership matters; how catalyst leaders represent the gold standard of leadership. They are energetic, supportive, forward-thinking mentors who spark action in others. But becoming a catalyst leader is hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. 

The writer has co-authored a book Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others with Richard S Wellins, a global expert in leadership development